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Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 4 - Below the Bedrock
Score: 70%
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Introduction:

Minecraft: Story Mode is really starting to wear out its welcome for me, but that doesnít mean the same is true for others. Considering the enormous popularity of Mojangís empire-building virtual sandbox and the speed with which Telltale greenlit a second season to its already lengthy series, thereís definitely a market there. Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 4 Ė Below the Bedrock is another surprisingly long episode; while that length allows it to go places it otherwise wouldnít have been able to access, it also exacerbates the seriesí (in particular, the second seasonís) biggest problems.

The Underneath:

Jesse and the gang have escaped their imprisonment into the dangerous underground world known as The Underneath, thanks to the standoffish, cold-hearted Xara. And lo and behold, sheís got a past. Not only was she an Admin, she was once good friends with Romeo, the petty, homicidal tyrant this season has treated as its Big Bad from the end of Episode 1 Ė Hero in Residence. Turns out, she, Romeo, and a hero named Fred were renowned adventurers, until a dispute ended with Fred murdered and Romeo decisively off the deep end. Xaraís bitterness is comprehensive, but itís second to her vengefulness. She wants to see Romeo brought down, and she believes Fred knew how to do it.

So this brings our adventurers to a town where Fred is basically worshipped. Since very few characters in these games are reasonable people, the gang has to take part in a series of truly asinine challenges in order to get the answers they seek. And the way itís all resolved is in classic Telltale fashion: you wander a fixed playspace, observing and interacting with the environment and the people who call it home. Itís definitely filler, but itís not entirely charmless. The problem is the lack of urgency, considering the fact that we know the Admin is already in Beacontown pretending to be Jesse.


Blocks that Bind:

Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 4 Ė Below the Bedrock takes the Petra problem that Season Two has been awkwardly growing and brings it to a head, with middling, inconsequential results. I have a feeling the writers have no idea what to do with the character, yet they still (rightly) view voice actress Ashley Johnson as one of their strongest assets. The tough-as-nails adventurer with whom Jesse eventually became best friends is now conflicted for some reason. Not only is she having trouble finding herself, but sheís having trouble letting go of her idea of what the Order of the Stone (and the friendship that seals that now-legendary alliance) should be. Thereís other housekeeping to attend to; some characters are still hurting from events that happened in the past, and they may or may not be looking at the situation with a clear head. Itís usual Telltale fare.

Before we wrap up, letís talk gameplay for a bit. Iíve been pretty vocal in my criticism of Minecraft: Story Modeís combat and crafting mechanics. Honestly, I feel I should be: I honestly believe this game has the worst combat system of any game Iíve played in recent years, and Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 4 Ė Below the Bedrock features numerous applications of it. Yes, youíve got the requisite quick time events (including those button-mashing moments used for mining and building), but each and every time I was given direct control of Jesse during a combat encounter, I wanted to pull my hair out. Itís slow, stiff, unsatisfying, and a complete waste of time. And this episode features two pointless building sequences instead of one. Joy. I actually put some effort into the first one and none whatsoever into the second (I used one red block and called it a day). Iím not sure thereís a system that judges what the player makes and reflects it in the subsequent dialogue, but I donít care nearly enough to put that idea to the test.


Conclusion:

I caught myself drifting on autopilot halfway through Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two: Episode 4 Ė Below the Bedrock, and when I snapped out of it, I had a hard time remembering what had happened in the previous thirty minutes. Thatís a really bad sign, especially this close to the end of the season. I can really only remember one moment that I found truly delightful, but it was over before I could blink, leading me to wonder if a certain characterís inclusion was more the result of a contractual obligation than organic storytelling. Oh, well. I suppose weíll find out in the finale.

As a smaller part of a whole, Episode 4 Ė Below the Bedrock is a very specific cog in the strange machine that is this series. That being said, it offers almost no buildup to what Iím assuming will be the season finale. In fact, it really doesnít do its job until the very last moment in the episode, leading me to believe that itís all about physically getting characters where they need to be and eating up the necessary runtime in order to justify selling it as an episode. At this point, Iíve seen enough of Minecraft: Story Mode: Season Two to confidently say that itís a fairly safe pass, though Iíll reserve final judgment for the next episode.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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